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[28 Dec 2011|05:12am]
That's supposed to be "grinding my teeth". The iPad has it's limitations and live journal is one of them.
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Wait, I'm allowed to speak? [28 Dec 2011|04:53am]
I'm in Beijing again. First day of training went great. Excited for what we are working on and who we are working with. Annoyed that china still blocks Facebook, now blockes google plus and free public wifi now requires a Chinese phone number. We are debating whether that is the government trying to record who is speaking so they can come by their home if they say the wrong thing. I want to meet Ai Weiwei and I have a longs it connection.

My train wreck alcoholic roommate will not be my roommate by the time I get back and that is a very, very good thing. Over the last two months he has burned every bridge with every other housemate and we all hate him at this point. He was even overheard saying that he is trying to get me to attack him so he can sue. Sue me for what I'd like to know, but whatever. It he wasn't so pathetically transparent it might have worked but I have been worked by much smarter people the same way and kept my cool so this is where I pat myself on the head. It amuses me how often people who fancy themselves victims are actually manipulative bullies. I Think being able to sit back and observe people is the greatest anger management tool ever.

In the same stream I have somehow been forced to room with the douche this trip. I flipped a little bit when I realized my predicament. Then I thought about why I get so angry having to interact with the douche. He tries to tear everyone down to build himself up, weak and strong alike. But he isn't powerful in any real way. Everyone just bites their tongues because frank has pointed out that he is a paying student and (sigh) a martial brother. So I have felt bound to eat the poo and hold my words. So I released myself from that duty. If the douche behaves as he normally does I will not hesitate to tell him he is a douche and why he is a douche and if he can't hear that I'll just turn up the volume by letting him know that no one, and I mean no one at the academy likes him. Basically I will start behaving as his older (martial)brother, which is what I am. The decision to take back my right to speak seems to be all I needed to do to get out from under the anger. He hasn't acted up yet but I'm not grinding my testy in anticipation now.

I'm feel kind of good about everything right now. Woot!
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[04 Oct 2011|04:32pm]
I know the last entry was full of errors. I typed it on my fancy new iPad which wouldn't let me correct everything.
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The good the bad and the weird [04 Oct 2011|04:27pm]
A few things from my last few weeks.

The long time (but possibly recovering?) drunk has been keeping a super low profile and that's for the best.

The last month was stupidly stressful for me. I wanted to pick up a certain amount of overtime at work but the arrangement of my schedule was working against me. Add to that a week with the montezuma's revenge after a weekend in Mexico and later a head cold that went from a 1 to a 8 overnight. In the end I got reasonably close to my target but I also called in sick twice in the same month.

In the midst of all my stress boxing seems to have become the calm in the eye of the storm. After 6 years boxing I am suddenly relaxed, technical and quick. I am moving from an aggressive game to a counter punchers game. I look forward to boxing like it's one of my only joys... Hmmm, that may have been some type of freudian slip.

I hate my job and have been thinking deeply about what the next step should be. I am reading about small online businesses involving information products and considering whether grad school is right for me. Mitch and I have been talking about moving to china in the spring for six months to study mandarin. I could tighten my connections with my taiji family over there and he could take private clients. It turns out there is a significant demand for western trained therapists amongst the executive expat community. At the moment it looks like his job is setting him up for a very significant promotion and he will have to weigh his choices if that happens. I could always spend every other month in Beijing and have nearly the same experience.

But where is the weird you ask? That was most noticeable during the full moon, as is often the case. On the way out to Vegas we had a drinker as is expected. This guy was in someone else's section, about six two and maybe three twenty. He had eight jack and cokes in a five hour flight which is about the limit even for a guy his size. Towards the end he came out of the lav and offered us a vicadin or a xanex or something. Ok, I was trying to ignore him but it was defitely one of the scrips that is bad bad bad to mix with booze and that we can't take while working regardless. We all politely declined and he went back to his seat where I saw home take his pills twice more in the last thirty minutes of the flight. I wonder if he ended up in the emergency room that night or woke up dead in the morning? I'm just thankful he didn't have a medical emergency on board because I hate medicals and the only thing I imagine we could have one for him would be to get him puking. Idiot. On the way back we had a dude with elphantitis of the testicles headed to NYC to be interviewed on the Howard Stern show. He told the girl at the check in counter they weighed seventy five pounds. I doubt that but he did have a sack of potatoes hanging off the front of him. I rarely feel so awkward that I want to laugh nervously but this did it. You want to be respectful and professional but wow. That's a lot. Just a lot. One of my coworkers will always have the award for the most professional flight attendant in my book because he helped the guy slide a milk crate and pillow under his balls without a hint of awkwardness. Of coarse I teased him the rest of the night that he really knows how to make another man's balls feel good. And that it was him the lifted the dudes balls while the guy got the pillow in place, when it was really the opposite.

Then to cap off my month I had a room mate go crazy town on me the other night. We have been renting a room to a pilot for American Airlines for about two years. In that time I have seen him maybe six times. He got called up for military duty in afganastan but continued to pay rent. He left his bike in our dining room unfortunately and at some point we moved it up to his room. Within days he contacted us to ask why we had entered his room. We then speculated that he must have a motion activated camera in his room. A little crazy, but whatever. So the other day we heard that he was moving out from our landlord who he had contacted directly. That fits his MO. The few times he interacted with anyone he behaved very, very military. That's the only way I can describe it other than to say maybe that he was distant and cold. So about four days ago he asked me a few questions about if I had any official duties in the house that would require me to enter his room. I said not really. And then he told me that he had pictures of me drinking with two girls in his rooms and tampering with his things. He seemed to be implying that I did really bad things like maybe have a threesome in his bed or something. I said I couldn't remember any such visit and maybe if he could show me the pic I might have some context to remember. Well that really set him off and he got really aggressive and came across the room yelling at me that I was a lier and blah blah, blah. I was sitting at the time and basically told him that standing over me aggressively wasn't going to intimidate me and that he should get himself back to the other side of the room where he started. Jesse is a big, black muscular dude and I'm sure that he is used to intimidating people but he backed up even if he didn't shut up. Eventually he left. Now I don't really want to find out if he is also a air force boxing champ but I am not a meek person and I am not going to shy away from a fight if it comes to it. The thing that annoys me about all this is that I have never been anything but polite to this guy and I never denied the possibility of what he said, I just asked to see the pictures to help me remember if I did something dumb when I was drunk. The funny thing is that over the next few weeks I will have to show the room to prospective roommates. So maybe i'll get so find out yet if Jesse can move inside that big muscle suit he carries around.
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Im in Michigan [08 Mar 2011|08:45am]
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Nice [22 Feb 2011|05:48pm]
 My teacher Frank posted this video on facebook and its so good I thought I'd share it over here.

This guy is doing Baguazhang and appears to even be doing the same or a very similar lineage to the one I practice.  The thing I really enjoy about the video besides the excellent movement and production is that he is demonstrating a number of training exercises that I am unfamiliar with but will now try.
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[28 Jan 2011|03:35pm]
 Any time I remember a dream I think I should acknowledge it because its just rare.  Today Im thinking maybe the reason I don't remember my dreams is because they are badly written and kind of lame.

So apparently I was trying to prevent the sociopathic but kind of spacey nice villainess from summoning a giant swarm of insects of unusual size.  I failed or had failed at the point in the dream where I woke up.  She killed a lot of people in some type of school or college.

That was unsatisfying.

And I want to be able to summon insects of unusual size.  Wait, let me preface that they must be under my control.
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I got asked the other night to be a god parent. [21 Jan 2011|05:22pm]
I have never even thought about this before.  The prospect of having my own kid seemed unlikely and thats just something you accept.  I think being a godfather might be more fun anyways.  I get to teach the child things like why fighting is not wrong and how to win.  I have fantasies of teaching the baby to throw a left hook before it can walk.  How cute would a baby be that left hooks every face that comes close?  Pretty damn cute I think.

No really.  I think I have things I could teach a kid about keeping a good attitude towards life and death and the big questions.  It won't all be about punching people in the face.  Although punching people in the face might be the larger metaphor through witch I try to give perspective on other stuff.
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Me and a bunch of drunken kung fu masters [13 Jan 2011|01:35am]
 Not "Drunken Kung Fu" masters.  I mean "drunken" kung fu masters!

Im back from Beijing and sleeping a lot the last two days.  I might post some pics when I lay hands on other peoples.  I take less and less myself each visit because I guess this just feels more and more like my life to me and less and less picture worthy.

The trip has refocused me though.  Li Bing Ci was in much better health this year.  I can't tell you how happy this makes me because I have a real affection for him.  Its kind of funny to me to watch year after year people seduced by Liu Jing Ru's force of personality and overlook that the deepest most enlightening training is always provided by Li Bing Ci.  Li is exactly what I would hope a real internal master to be.  He focuses our training on refining our structure and our movement and energy and is emotionally invested enough in us understanding what he is teaching that he actually gets frustrated when we don't understand.  A lot of people read that as him being cantankerous.  I appreciate that he wants us to preserve his art and actually considers us an outlet to doing that.  

Which is why this year was so special.  On the sixth of January Frank, Tina, myself, Doctor Earl, Doctor Jon, and Old Robert had the honor of becoming Li Bing Ci's first western disciples.  I can't really articulate what an honor this is.  Most Taiji in the west is Yang style and Chen style.  There are 3 other recognized systems of Taiji in China that are largely unknown elsewhere (and butt loads of unqualified guys creating their own illegitimate styles).  Northern Wu style is recognized by many within China as the most refined and internal Taiji of them all.  Li Bing Ci is famous within China for his skill.  He is a fourth generation linage holder of the art and considered the greatest living master of the system.  That is very high on the Taiji tree in general.  Most people teaching in the west aren't even linage holders and those that are are significantly farther down the tree.

What does this all mean?  Well, it doesn't make me a superhero unfortunately.  What it does do is put me on record in China.  Li is treating me as a diplomat to the west.  And that is enough for me.  I am honored.  The fact that Li showed improved health makes me think that I need to move to China as soon as I am able to study with him.  At the very least I need to start traveling with frequency to China to study.  I need to drink whatever water I can get because well, when Li is gone the next best teacher is not even close.

Incidently, getting blitzed on bijou toasting raids with a bunch of martial brothers and sisters and 80 year old who's who of Beijing internal arts masters was awesome, maybe even one of those great moments in life.

I am honored to be part of this family and I will make the most of what opportunities it offers me to grow and to grow the art.
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Is anyone else being watched by the Russians? [13 Jan 2011|12:53am]
 None of them are saying hello but several have friended me.  Thats cool but I can't read their journal so I don't think it makes much sense to friend them back.  I would love for one of them to actually be Richard, the New Jersey Russian spy who was studying Taiji at the academy.  But don't know because I can't read the journals.  Hey Russian friends, say hello!  I'd love to know what you're about and why you are interested in me.
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home [12 Dec 2010|05:39am]
 I flew home for about 20 hours to see my mom.  I don't exactly know what to say.  She is physically stronger than the last time I saw her actually but just seems to have less life.  I spent an entire day sitting with her and had to pretty much initiate every exchange.  Im not really sure you could call it conversation.  Well, there's one thing that she will say without prompting and thats that she wants to live at home again.  Thats never going to happen though.  She is staying with my sister's family because she has moments where her brain doesn't judge what she is capable of and she does dangerous stuff.  Of coarse I want to write that off as my mother having always been an annoyingly stubborn person but I have to take my siblings' word for it.  

After leaving her for the evening my brother told me the doctor said she will probably have a large stroke in the spring and die.  Who knew they could predict this stuff but apparently its true.  I can't say that I'm in a very good place with it but what are you going to do?  That prediction actually makes it easier for me to go to China without to much fear.  In febuary I will schedule a week in which I can go home and spend as much time with her as I can.  I don't know what else to do.
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[03 Dec 2010|06:54pm]

about six months ago my mom had a stroke.  I went to see her in recovery and she seemed to be doing pretty well.  Weak but recovering.

about six weeks or more ago my sister contacted me on facebook that mom had another one and was back in the hospital.

I freaked and stuck my head in the sand.  I didn't check in again.  I just couldn't deal.

My mom's mom had a series of strokes that completely transformed her into someone that was just frighteningly different and very difficult to be around.  Ive been living in fear since the first stroke that the same thing is happening to mom.

I just talked to my brother in law.  The same thing is happening to my mom.  I want to cry.
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its your effort alone that creates results [03 Dec 2010|02:33am]
I had dinner with one of my martial brothers from the academy this evening.  He's been going through a lot the last nine months or so with his mother coming out of remission and him getting basically forced into the caregiver role.  He was always the black sheep of his jewish family and the parents always tried to get him to conform.  So it hasn't been easy putting his life and his budding acupuncture practice on hold to go be the good son that never was.

Frank especially has been concerned for him, having himself been the primary caregiver for a lover that eventually died of cancer.  My buddy has largely disappeared from the school and Frank has tried to stay in touch with him with little results.

So tonight he dropped the bomb on me that Frank has suspected all along.  He doesn't see himself ever going back to the academy.  He is frustrated with the curriculum and with his own progress in the internal arts.  He thinks that all the emphasis in the academy is on teaching people an endless stream of new material without doing enough foundational work to create depth and internal growth.  Basically he thinks the academy produces students with vast superficial knowledge.  And to a certain extent I agree with him.  All you have to do is look at 90% of the students and you see that something isn't working because they are not manifesting the body alignments, relaxed grace and power that is what we all aim to achieve with this work.

My response was both acknowledgement of what he sees and an explanation of what's missing gleaned from 25 years or so in the martial arts scene.  Oh, and Frank's response when I asked him the same questions years ago.  Martial arts instructors come in two varieties, professional and non professional.  Both have their merits and their limitations but they can be summed up as:  A professional will most likely be more highly skilled in technique and teaching ability because it is what he does with most of his time, but he has to keep the students who support him interested or he will be a homeless bum.  A non professional has the luxury of making students "eat bitter" because he doesn't depend on their money to live.  

Back in the day students essentially interviewed or begged for the opportunity to study with a knowledgeable teacher.  We have all seen it in a kung fu movie.  The student has to prove to the teacher that they are willing "to eat bitter" because it is understood that if they aren't willing to endure the hard work of training they are wasting the teacher's time and effort in teaching them.  And yes, they still had to pay.  But this shit is valuable, its precious, its rare and it takes years and yes, decades of sustained effort to realize one's own potential.  Back in the day, people were a lot less lazy.  Times were harder and Im not sure the idea of the dilettante existed outside of the royal courts.

Now days most of the students are the very definition of dilettantes. And as one smart master exclaimed:  "A teachers got to make a living!" Frank explained it to me years ago already.  Students will not pay to be forced to do the tedious, difficult and downright painful work required to be good.  If you make your living at this you need to keep your students and the way you do that is by teaching them the foundational work but leaving it up to them to put in the hundreds of hours of work necessary to digest it.  It is their work to do on their own while he keeps them engaged with learning many pretty forms and things.

I tried to explain this all to my buddy but Im not sure that he was willing to hear it.  Progress requires sustained effort and the hard boring stuff is not going to be spoon fed to you.  Frank is an extraordinary martial artist and an amazing teacher and he has led each of his students to the water over and over again.  Before abandoning the lifelong commitments we made to our master when we became his disciples  I wish my buddy would try drinking.  Because the next teacher can't "make" him great either.
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Nola [29 Nov 2010|03:29am]
Mitch and I went down to New Orleans for the Thanksgiving weekend. It was my first time there and I pretty much loved it as I expected too. The French Quarter was fantastic if you stayed away from Bourbon st.

blah, I don't know what to say. We stopped by a Pat O'Briens at some point for a hurricane. Our bar tender was a nice young guy. We only interacted with him for a moment but I actually remember thinking he had a good energy. The next day I think we saw the news.   I want to write about the positive feelings I have of the trip but they just seem trivial.

Saturday there was a football game between two rival colleges.  We got more than one warning to stay off Bourbon St that night.  Which we did.  There were cops out everywhere.  We were later told there was a larger force than during Marti Gras.  We made it an early night.  I slept through it but Mitch heard the sirens.  More shootings, on Bourbon, as predicted.

Im not really filled with fear for having been so near it.  If some ones not pointing the gun specifically at you you're just real unlucky if you get hit.  I just don't know that I've ever talked to someone only to have them killed a few hours later.  It bums me out.
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[22 Oct 2010|06:03am]
Well thats interesting. LJ seems to be posting things out of order. Whatever, I guess.

Thought I would toss up a few photos from my recent visit to Beijing. Most of these are taken by Mitch because this was his first visit and I wanted him to have take pics of the things he wanted to remember.

I'll try to control myself and only post some highlights.
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Writer's Block: One door closes, another one opens [22 Oct 2010|04:09am]
Have you ever closed the door on an opportunity or a relationship in order to open another door, only to realize you made the wrong choice?

I think the closest thing I have come to this is moving back to the USA after one year in Brazil. I was invited to stay another year by the head of my English School and my visa was good for that long. The problem was I missed my friends from college desperately. I didn't even own a computer and calling the US at all was prohibitively expensive. What happened was I moved back and spent six months getting back on my feet financially while most of my friends from school had moved on already. After six months I got hired by Northwest airlines and moved to NYC, but then got laid off 18 months later.

If I had done things differently I might not be a flight attendant at all at this point (which would not be all bad) but I would have left much more fluent in Portuguese and twice as good a Capoeira player and only sacrificed 18 months at a crappy company.
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along the square between the towers [22 Oct 2010|04:03am]
I've thought for a few years that this is my favorite space in the city. On previous trips I have seen people practicing Xing-i and other martial arts in the large stone cental square. The edges are lightly sprinkled with cafes and bars but the area never feels crowded. There are always several groups of men playing cards or dominos.

If I was going to move to Beijing this is the first place I would try to find a flat.
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and the bell tower [22 Oct 2010|03:55am]

and the bell tower
Originally uploaded by cennetigg
The two towers are separated by a fairly large square with hutong surrounding it. They are directly due north of the forbidden city and its very obvious on the map that despite being outside the royal court that they functioned as part of it.
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and then to the drum tower [22 Oct 2010|03:50am]
which it turns out is hella cool inside but kind of crappy for photos. Think about 500 steps with a hall full of giant drums up top. I don't know how many of those things were played at once but you get the impression that the whole imperial city was booming at times.
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Houhai looks a lot nicer when its not frozen [22 Oct 2010|03:45am]
Eventually we emerged from the working class hutongs and into some of the more touristic hutong neighborhoods. In the distance you can see the drum tower where we are headed. A huge area around Houhai lake has become a very popular night life district. Its a heck of a lot of fun actually and we did eventually go back at night.
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